Texas banking on good health for second half
The secret to the Texas Rangers winning a third consecutive
American League West title isn't such a secret to manager Ron Washington’s
Texas, which has its best franchise record after 86 games at 52-34, must find a
way to remain healthy in the second half of the season.
If the Rangers can do that, then the 38 games remaining against teams with
better than .500 records, including 13 against the Los Angeles Angels, will
take care of themselves.
"The key is that we just stay healthy," Washington said. "It's
the same key that it's been since we started April and when we hit spring
training. One thing I told them is if we stay healthy we'll be fine. We've just
got to keep the guys we're depending on healthy. Get our pitching staff back,
back to full strength, then see what happens."
It's been the pitching staff's injuries that may have been the main reason the
Rangers haven't been able to put more than four games between themselves and
the Angels in the AL West. As good as the Rangers have been, they've done so
without the starting pitching they received in 2011.
Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland have been or still are on the
disabled list. The bullpen has just three reliable healthy relievers in Robbie
Ross, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan.
The Opening Day rotation for the Rangers has combined to take make just 67 of
the 86 starts this season. Last season, the Opening Day rotation took the
ball 157 times in 162 games.
Opening Day starter Lewis, who is on the disabled list with right forearm
tendinitis, is expected to return to the rotation next week in Oakland. He
knows how important it is for the rotation to stay healthy.
"It's going to mean a lot confidence wise just to the team unity,"
said Lewis, who is 6-6 with a 3.51 ERA. "Everybody being back, being
healthy. When you look around and you're like this guy's hurt, this guy's hurt,
this guy's down, that doesn't really give you that sense of the way things have
been the last couple of years. When we all come off (the DL) everybody will
have an easier mindset in the situation."
The good news is that the staff is getting close to being whole. Derek Holland
is already back in the rotation. Feliz, Alexi Ogando and Koji Uehara are beginning
rehab assignments in the next few days and should be able to help the Rangers
in the next couple of weeks.
Those additions should help a staff which ranks fifth in the AL in ERA, which has
gone over 5.00 for the last 15 games as the Rangers have had to rely on
starters like Martin Perez, Scott Feldman and Justin Grimm. The rotations' ERA
over the last two weeks has hovered around 6.00 — that won't get it done with
the Angels charging hard in the West.
While Texas has struggled with pitching injuries, the club has been remarkably
healthy when it comes to position players. With the exception of Mitch
Moreland, who is on the DL with a hamstring strain, the Rangers have been able
to use a lineup they want almost every day.
Josh Hamilton has played in 79 games while Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Adrian
Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young have each played in at least 82.
While the offense hasn't been performing like it wants to recently, at least
the players Washington wants to use in his lineup are available.
"If you told us this is where we would be at to begin the season, most of
us would have taken this," said Kinsler, who has started a team high 84
games. "It's been a good first half. We can definitely improve though. We
need to try and improve any way we can.
"When you have a very good team like we do, health is always important. You
never want your guys to go down, but it happens in this game sometimes.
Hopefully in the second half we can stay away from it."
One thing the Rangers don't have to worry about when they begin play Friday
night in Seattle is complacency. The last two seasons have ended a series shy
of the team's ultimate goal. As good as the Rangers have been to start 2012,
nothing is guaranteed in the second half of the season.
"There's a lot of room for improvement," Young said. "A lot of
guys are very hungry to get this second half started and play to our potential.
We know what a big league season entails. We know how long it is. We know when
the stretch drive starts. We know the importance of getting healthy."